Best practices can be simply defined as the processes, rules, or procedures that have attained a level of success. Best practices are accepted or even prescribed as being the most effective for a given situation or problem. Best practices are usually developed by professional associations, research groups, or other authoritative entities and are comprehensive, measurable, notably successful, and replicable. Measurable means that the goals are clear and the progress toward them can be measured. Replicable means that the practices are structured and documented clearly enough so they can be reproduced by other organizations. Some of the key advantages of using best practices are that they help set standards for organizational performance both internally and externally and can even bolster the credibility and reputation of an organization. This entry describes best practices as a way to provide organizations with solutions and a set of rules that can be adapted or used in a given situation. It also discusses some best practices in corporate reputation and how organizations can use those as benchmarking for their work.
Use of Best Practices in Corporate Reputation Management
An organization’s reputation environment depends on the speed, severity, and unexpectedness of economic, political, and social events around the world. These challenges can have greater consequences for organizations when there are no industry standards or best practices against which to compare their own practices. Organizations benchmark their corporate reputation management practices against industry competitors and best-of-the-class companies to understand their reputation’s strengths and weaknesses. Organizations can use the best practices in corporate reputation management to understand the strategies and systems of leading organizations to build reputation and relate to their key constituents. Best practices also help companies organize themselves to manage their reputations, develop competencies and a reputation-building strategy, and learn from the latest trends in the field.
To help organizations achieve the value-driving potential that a fully evolved reputation system can deliver, GlobeScan has identified seven best practices to deal with the common challenges and shortcomings of corporate reputation management. The seven practices form the pillars of a robust reputation framework for global companies, leading to greater resiliency in times of crisis and overall corporate success:
- Deeply understand the context within which stakeholders interpret a company’s actions and decisions: the current dynamics of business and society, the relevance and potential impact of key issues, and the relative performance of competitors.
- Build an inclusive, “reputation-centric culture” by involving key functions early on, including corporate affairs, communications, corporate brand, corporate social responsibility/sustainability, human resources, investor relations, and business units, to ensure stronger enterprise-wide alignment and integrated corporate responses.
- Develop a highly customized approach to measuring corporate reputation—one that assesses existing associations within the company and brand, identifies robust corporate reputation drivers that the company needs to manage, and helps develop a set of precise reputation key performance indicators that align with the company’s business and strategy.
- Invest in a 360-degree perspective of reputation, to ensure a complete diagnostic of the current state across geographies and audiences. Gather stakeholder intelligence that can have a material impact on the organization’s reputation, including information from those who know the organization well and those who don’t. Stakeholders who can affect a company’s reputation matter regardless of their proximity to or actual knowledge of the company.
- Ensure that media-monitoring data and primary stakeholder intelligence are being analyzed in concert; facilitate the sharing of information by providing the organization with customized, relevant, electronically available “dashboards” of integrated metrics and indices.
- Ensure that reputation research and intelligence are being gathered in ways that facilitate better decision making and that sufficient time is invested in discussing the quantitative assessments to develop actionable corporate responses.
- Once data are gathered, do not lose sight of the importance of effective stakeholder engagement; stakeholder intelligence is a vital part of any strong corporate reputation system, but corporate responses will require stakeholder engagement strategies to help build social capital and trust. For example, BMW and Johnson & Johnson, two companies that regularly appear in reputation rankings, monitor feedback from key stakeholders and use the insight gained to build a clearer understanding of where to invest and what to communicate, making better business decisions as a result.
An Example of Research on Best Practices in Internal Communication
The Institute for Public Relations created a two-part research program exploring best practices in global employee communication. The best-in-class practices started with setting a benchmark for best practices in internal communication methods and in global organizations. Ten companies were selected to participate in the qualitative study based on the companies’ global scope and their perceived effectiveness in internal communication.
These 10 companies—(1) GE, (2) FedEx, (3) Johnson & Johnson, (4) Cargill, (5) Chevron, (6) Navistar, (7) McDonald’s, (8) IBM, (9) Petrobras, and (10) Toyota—are often on the most-admired-companies or best-places-to-work list, and they have sustained market leadership positions in the dynamic global market. Their internal communication programs also are often recognized for excellence, as evidenced in the awards they receive and the extent to which they are profiled in conference presentations and professional publications, among other forms of recognition. The Institute for Public Relations found the following practices, programs, and leadership approaches separating best-in-class organizations from others:
- Acting as a business leader to support their role as internal communicators
- Beginning with the expected end stage in mind to help employees understand organizational change and how it will affect their work and the organization
- Challenging a new generation of employees to contribute to organizational growth and change
- Developing a road map for change so that people see a clear, measureable path forward in their journey
- Creating an internal stakeholder map that better integrates employees, while identifying and highlighting special internal stakeholder requirements
- Taking a strategic role with leaders and advocating a point of view that will influence business practices, help drive performance, and reinforce corporate culture and values
- Adopting an “authentic” voice to support greater transparency and to drive dialogue and engagement in the workforce
- Utilizing the power of “line-of-sight” managers as communicators
- Relentlessly reinforcing message platforms and the path forward through a dedicated content strategy
- Using measurement and key metrics to benchmark strategies and programs, to prove that they are enabling the workforce to achieve key objectives
The second phase of the research project was a survey of internal communication professionals who were responsible for influencing decisions within their organization or who worked in a consulting capacity with organizational communication teams. The research was designed to measure perspectives of current internal communication efficacy, assess the importance of the factors that the best-in-class leaders attribute to their success, and learn the extent to which these factors are currently in use or might be implemented in the future. The results also helped discover a clear and wide gap between what internal communicators know to be important in building efficacy and what they are able to do in their company. It shows that the ability to put important tools, practices, behaviors, and ways of thinking into place builds efficacy. Finally, the results indicate the beginning signs of a desire to adopt best-in-class practices, as well as revealing what practices need better acceptance among organizations.
Burton, K., Grates, G., & Learch, C. (2013, April). Best-in-class practices in employee communication: Through the lens of 10 global leaders. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.instituteforpr.org/best-in-class-practices-in-employee-communication-through-the-lens-of-10-global-leaders/
Debreceny, P., & Learch, C. (2014, September). What does good look like? A quantitative perspective on best-in-class practices in employee communications. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/What-Does-Good-Look-Like.pdf
Fombrun, C. J., & Rindova, V. (1998, April). Reputation management in global 1000 firms: A benchmarking study. Corporate Reputation Review, 1(3). doi:. Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/31952050_Reputation_Management_in_Global_1000_Firms_A_Benchmarking_Study
GlobeScan. (2013, December 10). Building resilient corporate reputations: A GlobeScan brief on reputation best practice. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: GlobeScan. Retrieved January 7, 2016, from http://www.globescan.com/component/edocman/?view=document&id=90&Itemid=591
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